Essex

Fine for worker's death at Chelmsford sub-station

Firefighters at scene of fire
Image caption The HSE said Mr Higgins' death could have been avoided

A power company has been fined £275,000 over the death of a worker in an explosion and fire at an electricity sub-station in Essex.

John Higgins, 59, died from the effects of burns and inhalation of toxic gasses at the EDF sub station in Bishop Hall Lane, Chelmsford, in May 2008.

UK Power Networks (Operations) Ltd admitted one charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It was also ordered to pay £145,000 costs at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Electrical engineer Mr Higgins, of Colchester, died when a device he was working on for manually adjusting voltage ratios, known as a transformer tap changer, exploded, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

The explosion caused a fire at the substation and Mr Higgins died at the scene despite the arrival of Essex Fire and Rescue within minutes of the alarm being raised by staff from nearby Anglia Ruskin University, it added.

'Tragic circumstances'

The incident also blacked out a large part of Chelmsford, including Broomfield Hospital.

The HSE said its investigation found UK Power Networks had failed to properly assess work with tap changers and to devise procedures for the work.

It had also failed to adequately train employees for carrying out this task.

UK Power Networks, which supplies power to the east of England, London and the south east, has since introduced revised procedures to safeguard staff, the HSE said.

After sentencing, HSE inspector Steven Gill said: "John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity had been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks."

At the time of his death, Mr Higgins' family said in a statement that he had been due to retire at the end of the year.

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